Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has leapt to defend injured midfielder Harley Bennell, suggesting criticism of his time out of the game is due to his race.
Bennell is yet to play a game for the Dockers since joining them in the 2015 off-season, with a calf problem keeping him from the field last year.
Another calf problem in his other leg is set to keep him from round one this season.
Lyon told the Herald Sun criticism surrounding the 24-year-old was unfair.
“When it’s a white kid, it’s a calf, when it’s a black kid with a chequered history, it’s a drug problem. That’s what was alluded to,” he said.
“I’m not political at all, but racism is an ongoing challenge, worldwide racism is ongoing challenge, isn’t it. So it’s topical.
“Harley is a good person, very emotionally intelligent and an incredibly hard trainer.”
Lyon said Bennell is on track to return in the early stages of the season.
“He’s progressing well, we’ve got a strong plan. Speed’s an issue, so we’re taking a real slower path,” he said.